Lionel Messi has once again certified himself as the greatest footballer of the modern era by winning his second consecutive Ballon d’Or award. It is a deserved accolade for the diminutive Argentine, who experienced a stellar 2010 season, irrespective of his failure to win last year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Here are the top moments which played a key role in allowing Messi to retain his World Player of the Year crown:
1. Fresh from winning his first Ballon d’Or for his exploits in 2009, Messi began the 2010 season in stellar fashion, scoring a hat trick in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Tenerife in round 17 of La Liga to cement his team’s hold on the Spanish Primera title.
2. Messi produced arguably the best individual showing from any player last season in the quarterfinal stage of the Champions League against Arsenal at the Nou Camp. Trailing by a goal and staring elimination in the face, Messi took the game by the scruff of the neck and netted four spectacular goals to guide Barcelona to a 4-1 win, which secured their place in the semifinals of Europe’s premier club competition.
3. Just four days after his magnificent showing against Arsenal, Messi certified his status as a player for the big occasion, scoring the first goal in Barcelona’s 2-0 victory over rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. It was a win which all but sealed Barcelona’s domestic title.
4. With so much expected of Messi at the 2010 World Cup, the 23-year-old started the tournament in stunning fashion, guiding Argentina to a 1-0 victory over Nigeria. Indeed, the brilliance of Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was the only thing keeping the Barcelona maestro at bay, as Messi constantly mesmerised Nigeria’s defence.
Despite failing to score a goal in South Africa, Messi was by far Argentina’s best player and ended up being one of the stars of the tournament.
5. After the disappointment of missing out on World Cup glory, Messi began the 2011 season for Barcelona in typical fashion. He scored another hat trick against Sevilla in the final of the Spanish Supercup, thus helping overturn a 3-1 deficit in the first leg to obtain Barcelona’s first piece of silverware of the new season.
6. The 20th of October would prove to be a significant date for Messi, as the Argentine put in motion a stunning run of form which would later see him score 15 goals in his next nine matches.
His goal-scoring run began against FC Copenhagen in the Champions League where he scored both goals in a 2-0 victory. Three days later, he scored twice against Real Zaragoza in La Liga and did so again against Sevilla in the following week.
Messi would go on and score the solitary goal in a 1-1 draw against Copenhagen in the Champions League and then scored another against Getafe in La Liga.
Messi then produced a brace against Villarreal, followed by a hat trick against Almeria. Messi’s terrific month of form culminated with another goal against Panathinaikos in the Champions League.
7. Having become accustomed to scoring at will for Barcelona, goals still proved difficult to come by for Messi when playing for Argentina.
After the Argentina Football Association sacked Diego Maradona as coach of La Seleccion, former World Cup winner Sergio Batista assumed the role of caretaker.
With Batista at the helm, Messi’s fortunes changed dramatically, scoring in the 4-1 victory over Spain and then scoring the only goal against Brazil in a friendly, thus ending a five-year winless streak against their great South American rivals.
8. With both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in hot form, the battle between Barcelona and Real Madrid was one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year.
After such a massive build-up, only Barcelona lived up to their reputation as world-beaters by destroying Real Madrid 5-0 in El Clasico. Messi once again outshone Ronaldo, by providing two wonderful assists for David Villa.
The Portuguese superstar, on the other hand, was yet again left lamenting another lost opportunity to claim bragging rights over the Argentine.